Democrats in both the Senate and the House are engaged in discussions on how to impose conditions on future military aid to Israel, according to anonymous party members. While these conversations are still preliminary, the White House is aware of the discussions and has been informed that support for conditions may gain momentum in the near future.
The debate over conditioning military aid to Israel has been sparked by similar discussions on restricting humanitarian aid to Gaza. Lawmakers are now considering the possibility of setting conditions on future support to Israel.
Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a lunch meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Israel-Hamas war with Senate Democrats. The meeting was attended by experts such as Shibley Telhami from the University of Maryland, Tom Friedman from The New York Times, and former Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross.
During the meeting, some senators raised the issue of conditioning military aid. After the meeting, Sanders released a statement calling for conditioned aid to Israel, including a pause in military operations to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, ensuring the return of displaced Gazans to their homes, ending settler violence and expansion in the West Bank, and committing to broad peace talks for a two-state solution.
The discussions among Democrats come as violence in Gaza escalates and the civilian death toll rises. The traditional Democratic support for Israel’s military actions has been weakening in recent weeks, going beyond the skepticism expressed by progressives.
If more moderate Democrats join the call for conditioning aid, it could complicate President Joe Biden’s policy of unwavering support for Israel. Humanitarian organizations have also reported attacks on their offices, staff casualties, and a shortage of medical supplies in Gaza.
While Democrats have not yet determined how to push for conditions on military aid, lawmakers are considering using existing authorities such as the Leahy Law, which restricts funds to countries involved in human rights violations. Israel currently receives approximately $3.8 billion annually from the US for military and missile defense systems.
Although some former defense officials believe it is unlikely for the Biden administration to impose conditions on aid to Israel, pressure is mounting for the administration to respond to Israel’s actions, including its operation at Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa. It remains to be seen whether these discussions will evolve into legislative action, which would add significant pressure on the White House.
The Biden administration is currently engaged in talks with the Israeli government regarding the establishment of safe zones in southern Gaza to facilitate humanitarian operations. Additionally, discussions between Israel and Hamas on a cease-fire seem to have stalled in recent days.